As Ukraine marks 6 months since the beginning of a large-scale Russian invasion, the Ukrainian government continues to record the occupiers’ numerous crimes against the environment.
Ukraine has secured international support for post-war environmental restoration. On August 19, Ruslan Strilets, the Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine, held a meeting with Manal Fouani, the UNDP Resident Representative a.i. to Ukraine. Ruslan Strilets told how the work and priorities of the Ministry changed since February 24 and described the Ministry’s work on calculating the damage to the environment caused by the Russian aggression. They also discussed post-war environmental restoration, preparation for COP27, and cooperation in forest sector development projects in Ukraine.
“The UNDP in Ukraine is one of our Ministry’s most important and reliable partners, helping us to implement several major environmental projects. I am convinced that such support will allow us to carry out all our plans successfully,” – Ruslan Striletsemphasized.
Nuclear and radiation safety threats
As of August 24, 2022, the Zaporizhzhia NPP operates with the risk of violating radiation and fire safety standards.
On August 5, due to an attack by the Russian military on the Zaporizhzhia NPP, the emergency protection of one of the power units was activated, and one of the three operating power units is now disconnected. The nitrogen-oxygen station, the combined auxiliary building, and three radiation monitoring sensors around the SSVYAP ZANP site were seriously damaged during the shelling. There are still risks of hydrogen leakage and sputtering of radioactive substances, and the risk of fire is high.
On August 11, the occupiers shelled the fire department, located outside the territory of the ZNPP, and intended to protect it from fires and extinguish them in case of emergencies at the station. On August 13, the 750 kV open switchgear (VRP-750) was also damaged. On August 14, an employee of the Zaporizhzhia NPP Maksym Marko died as a result of Russian shelling.
One of the transitional galleries through which personnel go from the special buildings to the power units (overpass) was damaged because of shelling on August 20. The windows in the building were broken.
According to the British Ministry of Defense intelligence, satellite images made on August 21 indicated that Russia maintained an enhanced military presence at the site, with armored personnel carriers deployed within 60 meters of the fifth reactor of the Zaporizhzhia NPP.
On August 22, Vladyslav Mitin, an employee of the Zaporizhzhia NPP, died as a result of shelling in Energodar.
On August 23, Energoatom reported that Russians were stockpiling equipment on the territory of the Zaporizhzhia NPP and had increased the number of soldiers at the station. The occupiers additionally brought two armoured personnel carriers and six special trucks to the station’s repair zone. In total, more than 40 units of military equipment are now stationed on the territory of the station. In particular, 16 military vehicles are located near the 1st power unit, and 7 near the 2nd. The occupiers drove another 12 pieces of equipment under the overpass.
On August 25, the ZNPP at least twice lost connection to the power line during the day. As a result of the cuts in the 750 kV power line, the ZNPP’s two operating reactor units were disconnected from the electricity grid and their emergency protection systems were triggered, while all safety systems remained operational. All six units remained disconnected from the grid also after the power line was restored in the evening of August 25.
The growing threat of Russia’s unprecedented nuclear terrorism prompts Ukraine to prepare for all possible scenarios at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
On August 17, Minister of Energy German Galushchenko and Minister of Internal Affairs Denys Monastyrskyi, together with the President of Energoatom Petro Kotin and the heads of the Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia regional state administrations, as well as the State Emergency Service, inspected the work of the emergency services responsible for radiochemical, biological and nuclear safety in Zaporizhzhia.
The Minister of Energy of Ukraine German Galushchenko announced that a crisis headquarters had been created at the facilities of Energoatom. This crisis HQ can be involved in the event of an emergency at the Zaporizhzhia NPP.
Ukraine calls on the world community to take urgent measures to force Russia to give back control over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant for the sake of the security of the whole world.
On August 20, Russian troops launched a missile attack on a residential building in the city of Voznesensk, located near the South Ukrainian nuclear power plant. As a result of the attack, 9 people were injured, including 4 children. The shelling of the surveillance zone of the South Ukrainian NPP is yet another cynical act of Russian nuclear terrorism.
Recent attacks on infrastructure and industry sites
On August 18, Russian troops:
- launched numerous rocket attacks on Kharkiv. As a result of the attack, a fire broke out in an area of about 4,000 square meters at a civil facility in the Kholodnohirsky district of Kharkiv;
- launched a rocket attack on an infrastructure object in the Shevchenkivsky district of Zaporizhzhia;
- shelled Nikopol with barrel artillery, damaging 15 houses and a gas pipeline;
- destroyed and damaged 51 objects in the Donetsk region: in particular, agricultural machinery and a warehouse were destroyed.
On August 19, the occupiers:
- launched rocket attacks on Kharkiv, destroying an enterprise building in the Osnovyansky district,
- attacked Mykolaiv with S-300 missiles damaging an enterprise in one of the districts of the city;
- shelled a farm in the Chuguyiv district of the Kharkiv region, causing agricultural machinery and garages to burn;
- destroyed the warehouses of the agricultural enterprise in the Velikomykhailivska community of the Dnipropetrovsk region.
On August 20:
- missile strikes on infrastructure facilities of the Kharkiv and Chuguyiv districts of the Kharkiv region were recorded;
- the occupiers carried out 17 shellings of the Donetsk region, damaging, in particular, a utility company.
On August 21:
- as a result of the shelling of Nikopol, a severe fire broke out at the enterprise, the fire destroyed its equipment;
- shelling damaged the Avdiivka coke-chemical plant in the Donetsk region;
- the invaders hit the territory of one of the agricultural enterprises of the Odesa district with 3 rockets, destroying warehouses with a grain of this year’s harvest.
On August 22, Russian troops:
- shelled the Zaporizhzhia TPP located in the occupied city of Energodar;
- shelled an infrastructure object in the Kyivsky district of Kharkiv and a fire broke out;
- launched a rocket attack on an agricultural enterprise in the Sinelnikyvsky district of the Dnipropetrovsk region.
On August 23:
- in Orichiv, the Zaporizhzhia region, the central market caught fire after the occupiers’ shelling;
- one of the infrastructure objects of the Odesa region was hit by a Russian missile.
On Ukraine’s Independence Day, August 24, the occupiers attacked 58 settlements — this is a much higher number of attacks than usual. Particularly, Russian troops:
- launched a rocket attack on the Chaplyne railway station in the Dnipropetrovsk region and a fire broke out. 25 people were fatally wounded, including 2 children;
- launched a rocket attack on a warehouse building in the Roganska community (the Kharkiv region). The area of the fire was about 300 square meters;
- launched rocket attacks on the infrastructure of Myrhorod, the Poltava region;
- launched rocket attacks on the critical infrastructure of the Shepetivka district of the Khmelnytskyi region. The fire that started as a result of the attack was extinguished;
- hit two industrial enterprises in the Shevchenkivsky district of Zaporizhzhia. Production facilities suffered significant damage.
Large-scale fires at infrastructure and industrial facilities lead to air poisoning with particularly dangerous substances. Pollutants can be carried by winds over long distances.
In Ukraine, due to Russian aggression, more than 550 MW of solar power plants and domestic SPPs were damaged or destroyed. Most of the destroyed objects are located in the occupied territories or near the frontline of hostilities. This was reported by the Solar Energy Association of Ukraine.
Pollution caused directly by hostilities
According to Ukraine’s State Emergency Service (SES), from February 24 to August 24, 186,709 explosive devices, including 2,102 aircraft bombs, were neutralized in Ukraine. An area of 68,937 hectares was surveyed for explosives.
On August 23, President Zelensky informed that the total number of various cruise missiles Russia had used against Ukraine was approaching 3,500.
The Mykolaiv regional administration reported that as of August 23, since the beginning of the Russian invasion 9,819 civilian objects have been partially or completely damaged in the Mykolaiv region. Destruction of buildings and settlements leads to pollution by construction debris and asbestos, and the consequences of such pollution to the environment will last for years.
Damage to natural reserves and protected ecosystems
According to the SEI, the environmental damage of UAH 14.5 billion was caused as a result of forest fires in the Drevlianskyi Nature Reserve in the Zhytomyr region.
As a result of rocket and bomb attacks on the Narodytska territorial community of the Korostensky district of the Zhytomyr region at the beginning of the full-scale invasion, massive forest fires broke out in the Drevlianskyi Nature Reserve. According to the administration of the reserve, more than 2,100 hectares of forest plantations were destroyed by fire.
In addition, during the burning, tens of thousands of tons of pollutants of various hazard classes were released into the air. In particular, the release of radioactive isotopes, which were accumulated on the territory of the nature reserve as a result of the accident at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, can not be excluded.
On August 19, the State Water Resources Agency of Ukraine published an analytical review on the quality of water resources in July 2022. Considering the current military situation, monitoring the quality of surface water masses used for drinking and household needs of the population was carried out at 67 monitoring points, constituting 71% of the planned number of monitoring points.
In the basin of the Don River in Eastern Ukraine, traces of heavy metals (cadmium, lead, mercury, copper, zinc) were found in the waters. In particular, a high mercury concentration (0.59 μg/dm3) was recorded at the monitoring point near the mouth of the Sukhy Torets River. The maximum permissible environmental quality standard for mercury in the water is 0.07 μg/dm3.
Since the beginning of the full-scale war, Russians have occupied the Kakhovska hydroelectric power plant in the Kherson region. The Dniproges, Kremenchuk, Middle Dnipro, Kyiv, and Kaniv HPPs are under threat of attacks.
Attacks on hydroelectric power stations can lead to their destruction, which will have catastrophic consequences for the lives of Ukrainians and the environment because a destroyed dam can flood lands and cities far downstream.
For example, if the Kyiv HPP, which dam holds 3.7 million tons of water, is destroyed, more than a thousand square kilometers will be flooded. This is the entire territory of Kyiv and another 50 settlements nearby — and this is only the zone of catastrophic flooding. Due to the destruction of the Kaniv HPP, Cherkasy and 66 other villages and small towns will be flooded.
In the Kherson region (the Kakhovska HPP), in the event of a disaster at the HPP, 18 settlements will be entirely covered by a layer of water, and another 25 will be partially flooded. As many as five cities (Kamianske, Dnipro, Novomoskovsk, Marganets, and Nikopol) and more than 40 settlements may be flooded in the event of a dam breach on the Kamianske Reservoir. If such an accident happens, more than half a million people will have to be evacuated from the territories. The destruction of the Kremenchuk HPP will flood approximately 1,200 square kilometers in the Poltava region, where another quarter of a million Ukrainians live.
At the beginning of August, repair works were completed on the lock of the dam across the Irpin River in the Kyiv region, which was destroyed in the first days of the Russian invasion. The pumping station started pumping water out of the flooded areas. According to environmentalists, the ecosystem will eventually recover, but it will take at least 5 years.
Black and Azov Seas
Russian troops have placed many mines in the waters of the Black Sea, threatening both shipping and people and marine animals in Ukraine and other countries of the Black Sea region.
On August 22, the Naval Forces of Ukraine discovered and neutralized two drifting sea mines near the coast of the Odesa region.
Previous reports of the Ministry of the Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine on environmental crimes committed by Russian troops since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine are available following the links:
- August: 11-17 August,4-10 August
- July: July28 – August 3, 21-27 July, 14-20 July; 7-13 July; 30 June – 6 July
- June: 23-29 June; 16-22 June; 9-15 June; 2-8 June
- May: 26 May – 1 June; 19-25 May; 11-18 May; 4-10 May; 28 April – 3 May
- April: 23-27 April; 19-22 April; 15-18 April; 8-14 April; 1-7 April
- February- March: 24-31 March; 9-14 March; 24 February – 9 March